‘Round and ’round we go

There is a question that came up a few weeks ago that got me to thinking. Here’s the question: “How can I be okay with continued struggles and suffering?”

This question is a tough one. So you have a new relationship with Jesus, you are starting to read your Bible, you think maybe this is it, maybe you’re done with sin and you can move on, move forward in your life. Until temptation comes and you sin again. Ever been there?

Being a Christian, a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, does not guarantee or even promise perfection while still living on this earth. Instead, there will be continued struggles, continued suffering, and continued failure in the face of temptation. How is that possible? Is that normal? How can I be okay with this?

Thinking back to Christmastime, do you realize that Jesus becoming a baby automatically put God’s seal of approval on a slow process? The angel announced salvation to the shepherds, but what they saw in the manger was a normal baby boy—a baby who needed time to grow up. It would take 30 years for Jesus to begin the earthly ministry that He came to do. When considering the life of a Christian, patience and process are not things we enjoy hearing about.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ, in His forgiveness and grace and method, uses a patient process to make us new. We are transformed in an instant, into a new creation in Jesus Christ. We are reborn and receive the free gift of salvation. The Holy Spirit immediately comes to live in us, guiding and directing us. But, this is a new thing. It will take time to get used to, time to figure it out, and time to grow and heal and live out of the newness.

Wherever you are in your life, whether you have put your faith in Jesus or not, we are all in process. My prayer for you, if you haven’t put your faith in Jesus, is that as you move forward in the process of life, you are moving closer and closer to Jesus. I pray that you would come to know Him as your personal Lord and Savior. It is the most incredible thing you will ever experience, and the best and wisest decision you could ever make. If you already have put your faith in Jesus, I pray that you would be encouraged to know that the struggle is real, and doesn’t end until we reach heaven. Know that sin is temporary, God is forever. While on the earth, we will have trouble, we will face temptation, but God is good, God is full of forgiveness, and as time goes on, God continues to reform our hearts and minds, our desires and eventually our desire for sin decreases because of the increase in our desire for more of God.

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Timing is Everything

I’ve heard something before that goes a little like this: The wrong plan at the right time is the wrong plan; the right plan at the wrong time is still the wrong plan. Does that make sense? Timing is everything. Even if you have a million dollar idea, if you try to implement it into the wrong market, at the wrong time, that million dollar idea will never take off.

Maybe you’ve heard the story, the details are a little faint in my head, but as I remember (and just Googled), James Cameron wrote the movie Avatar many years before the technology was available to film it. If he had tried to go ahead with making the movie with the technology available at that time (right idea, wrong time) it most likely would not have been one of the highest grossing movies of all time. However, he was patient and waited, and the movie did better than he probably ever guessed when he first wrote it (right idea, right time).

This brings us to the passage today:

“The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take the whole military force with you and go attack Ai. Look, I have handed over to you the king of Ai, his people, city, and land” (Joshua 8:1)

Leave Your Fears Behind

This verse comes in Joshua chapter 8, after a pretty rough chapter 7. There was this guy named Achan who had done something wrong. He did something he knew he wasn’t supposed to do, and knew the consequences of what he was choosing to do, yet he did it anyway. How often is this our story? Probably too often.

Achan made a bad choice and both him and his entire family and all his livestock and possessions paid the price for it. Not only did they pay for it, but the whole nation of Israel paid for it as well. They went to do battle with this city, Ai, early in chapter 7. They sent about 3,000 soldiers to go defeat the small Ai, but Ai routed Israel and killed 36 men. Verses 11 and 12 of chapter 7 say, “Israel has sinned… This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies… I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart.” So, because of Achan’s sin, his entire family paid, and 36 men from Israel were killed.

The Israelites had tried to move on before dealing with the sin problem, but after the Achan problem is taken care of, God then tells Joshua to go and attack the city Ai again because God is with them and will grant them the victory. The timing mattered. The timing was everything. Before turning from sin, they failed; after repenting and turning from sin, they were victorious and blessed.

I think the message is pretty clear here for us. We need to turn from the sins we are living in, those “minor” sins that cause distraction and ineffectiveness in our relationship with Christ; those small sins, like white lies, that really prevent us from experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus promised (John 10:10).

So, turn from sin and turn toward Jesus Christ. This is really the best and only way to live a life free from fear.